homegrown tomato garden
My tomato garden in 2020 has had a wild ride since February. Between my (mostly failed) hydroponics try, a surprise snow, an unpleasant discovery about trees and seeds that either didn’t sprout or didn’t thrive, I’ve had to make lots of changes. So now that it’s May, what’s really growing in my homegrown tomato garden?
Tomato Varieties in the Garden
I’ve started tomato seeds from a lot of different varieties, but not all have sprouted and thrived. Some were definitely due to user error (mine), some seemed to be issues with the seeds themselves. For example, I planted six seeds of Red Robin, but only 1 sprouted — go figure. But, here’ a list of what I have in the garden, or are within a couple of weeks from going into their final place in the garden.
- Vorlon (which I have nicknamed “Kosh”)
- Blue Beauty
- Girl Girl’s Weird Thing
- Alice’s Dream
- Red Robin
- Earl’s Faux
- Stormin’ Norman
- Tennessee Yellow Cherry
- Dwarf Arctic Rose
- Dwarf Wild Fred
- Sleeping Lady
- Red Brandywine, Potato Leaf
- Unlabeled dwarf (might be BrandyFred, but not sure yet)
- Cherry Princess Sweet Surprise
Who’s Doing What?
The first four to go outside were Red Robin (miniature early determinate), Vorlon, Blue Beauty and Girl Girl’s Weird Thing (all mid-season indeterminates). They went outside far too early, but in the case of Vorlon, Blue Beauty and Girl Girl’s Weird Thing (which I will abbreviate GGWT), I had to rescue them from a failed hydroponics experiment. And also, I am still trying to find my way growing in Tennessee versus Florida — in late February, my Florida tomato garden was fully planted. So, I jumped the gun — my bad.
Before I tell you how they are all performing, I will say this — next year, I won’t be starting my seeds in late January, because they are ready to go outside by mid-March, and it’s just too chilly for them to thrive. The seeds I planted in March have done the best overall, since we didn’t get really stable weather until late April. (Even then, we got s surprise late freeze in early May, three weeks after our last average frost date.)
Vorlon is the tallest by a fair amount, but GGWT wins the prize for overall size — it’s grown up and out. Blue Beauty is wimpy as a plant, but it’s got more open blossoms than the other two combined. However, for all three of these plants — they started setting out blossoms before the May freeze, and all the blossoms aborted. The second set for each all failed. They are now all in flower and crossing fingers, they will set some tomatoes this time. I guess that is what happens when you try to plant out too soon!
Alice’s Dream and Stormin’ Norman are in the process of creating a large number of blossoms — and they were some of the early March seed starts. Tennessee Yellow Cherry also has a good number of flower buds forming.
Earl’s Faux is a little slow when it comes to flowering, although it’s starting to form buds. It was a mid-February seed start, so it had more cold weather to contend with. I have to admit though — it’s a beautiful plant!
Jochalos is starting to blossom, as is Dwarf Arctic Rose. My unlabeled dwarf tomato is also starting to form buds.
The rest (Dwarf Wild Fred, Sleeping Lady, Aussie, Red Brandywine Potato Leaf and Cherry Princess Sweet Surprise) are a couple more weeks from being ready to be set out into their final garden spots — they were the last sets of seeds I started. I’ve potted them up at least once (twice in the case of Dwarf Wild Fred), but they are in the holding spot — dappled sunlight for a few hours then full sun for another two or three hours.
Some varieties I only have one plant, but some I have multiples. I ended up with three Earl’s Faux, two Alice’s Dream, two Stormin’ Norman. I also have two Aussie (although one might not make it) and a second Tennessee Yellow Cherry. I thought I was losing the older Tennessee Yellow Cherry to the cold, so I started a new seed. Surprise — the original one made it through the rough weather. Hmm, I think I may have two Red Brandywine Potato Leaf plants as well.
I did not grow Pink Brandywine this year. It’s a luscious tomato, but it never produced really well for me when I was in Florida. However, I decided to give Red Brandywine Potato Leaf a try, and see what happens.
So What About the Trees?
This is another thing I’ve had to learn the hard way. In South Florida, our trees never dropped leaves, and also I knew about how many hours of sun the various parts of our yard got, even allowing for changes in the sun’s angle during the year.
Here in East Tennessee, I discovered that my main garden area was getting shaded out when the trees started leafing out. What started out as six hours of full sun dwindled to maybe three hours at one point, with some dappled shade for perhaps another hour. Thankfully, the sun’s angle has changed enough so that the area gets a couple of hours of dappled shade and a little over four hours of direct sun. Not as much as I really want, but our yard is so full of trees I am having to make do.
I did find two other spots that receive about six hours of full sun through the course of the day, so I have more tomatoes there. Plus some peppers, beans, cucumbers, squash and assorted other herbs and flowers.
I also discovered that there is a family of rabbits somewhere nearby, as well as some dastardly squirrels and a chipmunk. Since all my plants are in containers, the bunnies haven’t been a problem yet. Not sure what’s going to happen when the cukes start to trail over the sides.
Definitely not sure what the squirrels and chipmunk will do, when faced with the temptation of garden fruit. Good or bad, I also have some hot peppers which are planted amongst the various tomatoes and other plants. I also discovered that squirrels do not like the smell of peppermint (story for another time), so I have several types of mints and fragrant herbs scattered around as well.
What homegrown tomatoes are in store for me in 2020? As I mentioned in my previous post of my new location, I’ve got a whole different growing style to get used to.
Instead of two short growing seasons, I have one longer one. If I am lucky, I’ll be able to do a little succession planting. The humidity up here isn’t nearly as bad as S Florida, even though I still will get days in the 90s come August. My season starts in early April, so I’m lining up all my supplies now.
All that being said, what tomato varieties do I have planned for the 2020 gardening season? Here’s what I want to grow.
Tomato Varieties Planned for 2020
I’m going with all new (to me) varieties, with one exception. All are either heirloom or open-pollinated, so I can save seeds if I like. And for a change, I am planting some dwarf tomatoes! Here is the lineup:
- Dwarf Arctic Rose: Determinate, pink, early-season. Regular rugose leaves. Fruits average 2 to 5 ounces.
- BrandyFred: Indeterminate (dwarf), purple, mid-season. Potato rugose leaves. Fruits average around 10 ounces.
- Dwarf Pink Passion: Indeterminate, pink, mid-season. Regular rugose leaves. Fruits average 8 ounces.
- Dwarf Bendigo Blush: Indeterminate, pink, mid-season. Potato rugose leaves. Fruits average 1 to 2 ounces.
- Red Robin: Determinate, red, early-season. Regular rugose leaves. Fruits average 1 ounce. Not a dwarf so much as a tiny micro-determinate — tiny as in maybe 10 inches tall. This is the one variety I have grown in the past, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it grows up here.
- Tennessee Yellow Cherry: Indeterminate, yellow, early-season. Regular leaves. Fruits average 1 ounce per tomato – supposed to be very prolific. And since I now live in Tennessee, it seemed appropriate. 😉
- Vorlon: Indeterminate, purple, mid-season. Potato leaves. Fruits average 6 to 8 ounces. I get a kick out of the show “Babylon 5”, and this was supposedly named after a character on the show. I just couldn’t resist, and purple tomatoes are generally pretty flavorful.
Three unusual varieties I’ll be growing are:
- Blue Beauty: Indeterminate, blue, early- to mid-season. Regular leaves. Unknown average size. I’ve not grown a blue tomato as yet, so this will be my first. The “blue” is due to anthocyanin, which is more of an indigo-purple color.
- Alice’s Dream: Indeterminate, blue/striped, mid-season. Regular leaves. Unknown average size. I have to admit, this one intrigues me. More anthocyanin, so it’s a “blue” tomato, but ripens to what looks like a striped tomato. It’s supposed to be beautiful and tasty!
- Girl Girl’s Weird Thing: Indeterminate, striped red/green, mid- to late-season. Regular leaves. Unknown average size, but appear to be medium. The name drew me in, and the striped red and green was fascinating. Supposed to be very tasty.
Although Blue Beauty, Alice’s Dream and Girl Girl’s Weird Thing have unknown average sizes, from the photos I’ve seen I guess that between 6 and 10 ounces seems reasonable. I know that “tasty” can vary from person to person, so when I eventually review these varieties, I’ll have to compare them against some well-known varieties for comparison.
I’m really excited to be growing in this new location, and with these new-to-me tomato seeds. I look forward to sharing my progress and photos of the garden and tomatoes.